Frankie, Sarah, Dona, and Me
Frankie, Sarah, Dona and me napped together at the dormitory. All four of us dog piled into one bed. I tended to be on the bottom with everyone around me curling into fetal position. Limited space meant you had to hold onto something, so hands attached to my sides and heads nestled into my chest. One time I remember it being good hour before we woke. Frankie told me once that she always feels safe sleeping next to me. She intimated as if the feeling was overwhelming. I heard the same from the others and I still wonder if my heartbeat is really that loud and rhythmic.
My conclusion and encouragements are that I give good naps as well as good hugs. At least it is said so by friends, enemies, relatives, and strangers. I did not study or read to help others feel secure around me. On the contrary, it has been a matter of deciphering my needs for safe touch. Let us leave out any notion of romantic intimacies for now. Right now, where I sit attaches itself to emotional outbursts and confusion. It is a place next to the freezer door leaning ajar against the pantry shelving. It also means I sit at the base of a Red Oak tree waiting for the storm to subside. Sometimes hugs then color dismantled anger and agitated loneliness that dwells at the core. When I ask for a hug, it is because I cannot manage myself anymore. If whom I ask receives the request on gentle ears, then we both tender blessings indeed.
Knowing my mother’s skittish attitude toward hugging, I never thought she would be receptive when I, in my late twenties, began asking for physical reinforcement of care. My family, I wanted more than anything, but I knew less of their habits reacting to implementing new traditions. One Saturday afternoon, I asked the question: Can I have a hug? She said yes. I held on to her for a moment and let up so as not to press the issue. She said, “We’re not done. In this article I read, they say to hug for at least thirty seconds to release endorphins.” I wrapped my arms beneath her shoulders and we counted together for the whole thirty seconds. I felt the changes and so did she. I have used it as a rule of thumb ever since then. I hug to release daily shackles, but only with those, I respect and trust.
- Last Christmas
I thought I would cry. I stood in front of my niece and nephew asking for a hug before they left for home. I always ask and they always say no. I do not know why I hope for a change. Last meeting over Christmas, I asked them the same question as they left. They hugged their grandmother at her insistence. Me however, giving them a choice may have revealed emotional ignorance on both of our parts. The occasion may seem mundane. You wonder why it matters. For me it is this: some never get to choose or manage their physical contact with peers or adults. This is especially the case for children. At the same age I did not have the ability or knowledge that I had a right to say no, to walk way, or fight. With them, I do not press the point. I thought that if I could slip the lesson in quietly, seamlessly, the two might learn what safe touch meant. One point of which was having control over your own body foremost.
At the close of a holiday celebration, I got desperate. I begged for a hug even after they both said, “No.” after I asked. I was envious; everyone else got his or hers. Then I thought playing with them on the playground equipment as the others talked would suffice my need to show them I cared. I did not, so, I begged. They finally stood with arms open wide and I carefully hugged them without smashing them into my breast. The joy? Last Christmas, they gave hugs without asking. Moving head to breast I said, “I love you very much” If in their later years they remember just that brief interaction, I will be happy.
III. The Laws of No
Saying, “No”, or, “Don’t touch me”, is not always a hateful remark. If I cannot stand to be in my skin or am in state of fearing because of flashbacks, please do not touch me. I am close to a breaking point and fear everything round me. The slightest touch may result in me brutally accosting you. If I do not leave the room, know that your presence grounds me. Know that I am not angry, but I am in an extreme mode of self-defense. My defensiveness has nothing to do with you. The occasion ties itself to my environment. I feel out of control and I cannot read the signs or signifiers of what is happening. Best be for me is rest and to know my immediate support is not leaving.
Before I turn in, as the day and night is over for me, I find myself in a gentle embrace. I could create some contraption of muse to wrap around my chest and behind my back. “Why,” you ask. If but for one reason no one else dwells in this inner sanctum. Should I commit the time to create such an endearment, my long armed stuffed animals will have to be calmed, as their jealousies will swell into the dark past midnight hours. For now, their love substitutes for any caring human touch I would have. Besides that, they settle my heartbeat come waking hours while the coos of doves on holly branches row louder outside my bedroom window.
For now, I seek my own two arms and care for fingers with the diligence of tailor. I can grasp my shoulder blades now. I can imagine a tighter embrace now. I can wait for two other arms at morning wake. Shall I practice hugging with the diligence of a doctor? I will beg the prescription of one in the morning and one at night, with love’s arms making peace on the insides of windows.
©N.A. Jones 2016 All Rights Reserved